I went to New York in the spring of 2010 and stayed at the Hilton, a retro chic downtown hotel located at Lexington Avenue and 51st Street, in the heart of Midtown Manhattan’s East Side.
One afternoon, I went down to the hotel lobby and asked where I could have an original New York cheesecake. The concierge suggested The James Hotel, on 27 Grand Street and Thompson Street.
I had an awesome afternoon at Jimmy, the rooftop bar. Me, my cheesecake and a 360-degree view of the Manhattan skyline. I had never heard about this Hotel, but it really had one of the most spectacular views in New York City, and that’s saying a lot, considering by then I had already been to Trump tower, the Empire state building and the Rockefeller center. I don’t get how this bar isn’t a must in every promotional brochure there is about this city. Anyway… I spent an amazing hour watching the sun setting over a river-to-river vista looking over Midtown, Wall Street, the Brooklyn Bridge and beyond.
I asked for a white chocolate cheesecake, with raspberry coulis. Classic, right? Don’t judge me, it was hard to make up my mind, there were so many options to choose from. Oreo, caramel and pecan, banana, blueberry, they even had Dulce de leche! I got mine and the moment I tried the first bite… OMG. It was so unbelievably creamy but light, full of flavor but not overly sweet. Smooth and rich, with a Graham crackery goodness crust. It melted in my mouth and every bite left me longing for just one more. I requested one more piece to go, and put it in the fridge at the hotel. The next morning, I woke up, made myself some mate, went straight to Central Park and had my second portion, right from the box.
Of course by the time I visited the James Hotel, the selfie-pose craze and Instagram filters were years away. I didn’t have my camera, nor had a camera phone. But those are the best moments of all. When you’re not tied to your phone, posing, tweeting, instagraming or whatsapping all of your friends so they all know where you are and how much you’ve traveled. It was just me, my cheesecake, a big coffee, and the view.
Anyway… about the cheesecake. I’ve tried many different recipes and this one is my go-to. I won´t say it tastes exactly like Jimmy´s. But every time I roll up my sleeves on a Friday afternoon and make this cheesecake for a special Saturday dessert, it brings back some nice memories.
- 250 gr. crushed crackers (frutigran, chocolinas, oreos)
- 60 gr. butter, melted
- 350 gr. White chocolate
- 800 gr. Cream cheese, preferably Philadelphia. If unavailable, La serenisima´s Finalndia works as backup.
- 200 cc. double cream
- 1 tbs Vanilla extract
- 1 cup white sugar
- 4 eggs
- Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Grease a 9 inch spring form pan.
- In a medium bowl, mix the cracker crumbs with melted butter. Press onto bottom of spring form pan.
- Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a a small pan of hot water on a low heat. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Mix the Philadelphia cheese together with a whisk. Add double cream and whisk. Finally, add melted chocolate to the mixture and whisk again until smooth. Mix in the eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to incorporate. Add the vanilla extract. Pour filling into prepared crust.
- Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Turn the oven off, and let cake cool in oven with the door closed for 5 to 6 hours; this prevents cracking. Chill in refrigerator until serving.
- Cover with strawberry coulis and decorate with mint leaves and white chocolate flakes made with a potato peeler.